(From A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe, Part I, Aberfan, chapter 11)

And then, at the dinner dance, with that kiss, he dared to believe they had a future. But Aberfan has scooped out the core of him, stretched it thin and catapulted it into the wild blue yonder. Maybe that's why he's here , to try and get himself back.

What do you understand by "stretched it thin" in this context? I take it to mean something like "the core of him was stretched like a string or an elastic band". What does the author want to say with this figurative language?

  • 2
    This is cross posting which is frowned upon, but I don't know if it is outrightly disallowed. Here is what I have already written on ELL: Are we going to go through the entire book like this? This is a metaphor and not very successful in fact. If you take a scoop and scoop out something from something, it normally would not lend itself to being stretched thin and then catapulted. Take a loaf of bread, scoop out the core, stretch it thin. Fine, You get a flat piece of dough. Not easy to "catapult" that. He trying to provide an image of "stuff" being shot with a catapult into the blue yonder.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24 at 18:21
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    @Lambie We did get to read much of "The Wrecker"
    – Henry
    Apr 25 at 11:43
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    @Henry Yes, we did. Not only on EL&U but also on ELL!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 25 at 16:47
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    @Henry - I wrote a comment on ELL under one of this person's questions about the Aberfan book, to the effect that I was praying fervently for the OP to come to the end of it, but some spoilsport deleted it. Apr 28 at 8:49
  • 1
    "Why are you trampling my asking for answers and help underfoot in the context of this book [...]?! I don't see any reason for doing so." Because you had crossposted two identical questions on two separate sites within two hours. Because you say your questions are a product of profound research when it's not always the case. Because you have been advised, told, and warned not to ask thirty/fifty questions about the same book.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 28 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


To "stretch something thin" is to, in some figurative way, use more than something is capable of. One could stretch thin their time, or money, or attention, or other resources, implying that they don't actually have enough to cover everything in an ongoing fashion. It implies that too much is being asked, and that the quality of whatever is being stretched thin suffers.

This passage states that Aberfan "stretched thin the core of him", implying that the Aberfan disaster was a great emotional burden to bear. It did not outright break him, but the passage connotes a sense of being close to it.

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